Monday, September 28, 2009

Team FireStopper Kickoff!

Saturday, September 26 was the first Team FireStopper event of the year. A group of enthusiastic volunteers went out and distributed fire safety information in North Lawndale. We also spread the word about the Safety Fair Seminar that will be held in North Lawndale at the beginning of October. To learn more about Team FireStopper and to volunteer (like these awesome folks above!) at an event click here!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

H1N1 Rap, Yo!

He's got the rhythm, he's got the rhyme, and he's going to help you prevent the flu! From NPR:

John Clarke, the rapping medical director for the Long Island Rail Road, is the winner in the government's contest to find a catchy public service announcement about swine flu prevention. Here are the runners up!

Enjoy! And spread this video virally, not the flu. Red Cross tips for staying safe this flu season are here. You can also read more about H1N1 on our National blog.

How to get a great finish line photo

For Team Run Red members, after months of training, the Chicago Marathon is nearly upon us! After running 26.2 miles, looking glamorous at the finish line isn't top priority, to be sure, but there are a few simple things that can be done to make sure you get a finish line photo to be proud of.


Don’t look down. Don’t mess around with your watch as your cross the finish line. Don’t obscure your bib number. Don’t drag your feet. Don’t make the “shoot me, shoot me now” face. Don’t whack others runners with wild arms. Don’t, whatever you do, don’t cross the finish line with a cartwheel or by walking on your hands– your shoe chip which is tracking your time might not connect with the finish line sensor!


Do run directly under the clock. Do try to move into an empty space so you get photographed solo (unless you’re crossing the finish line with another person intentionally, of course). Do lift your head and arms, either all the way up or out, or with bent elbows at shoulder level. Do make sure your bib number is visible. Do stride strong. Do smile, and do take a moment and feel proud for finishing– that sort of thing shows.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Workplace safety: what will your office do during a disaster?

I’m currently reading the book The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, by Amanda Ripley. Although I haven’t yet gotten very far into it, there are many concepts in the book that are very pertinent to workplace (and general) preparedness – which happens to be this week’s theme for National Preparedness Month.

Ripley expounds upon what people’s reactions to disasters are – she suggests there is a usual disaster response arc most will go through when under extreme duress. She recounts a 9/11 survivor’s experience and many of the circumstances that led to survival. A recurring theme throughout the 9/11 survival story is being prepared at work and knowing what to do during a disaster at the office.

Consider this: there are about 168 hours in a week. If you are employed full-time, you spend at least 35 hours of your week at your office (probably more – around 50). If you are not prepared for a disaster at your office, that means you are vulnerable nearly 21 percent of the week. That’s a pretty large window, and we are going to be working this week to close it.

If your office does not already have an emergency action plan, it time to start putting one together. Here is a good resource from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that details how to plan for workplace emergencies and evacuations. If you get started now and begin to communicate with your coworkers what you will do during a disaster, your plan will be more effective and you will all benefit more from it.

What does your office do to be prepared for a disaster? Do you have regular fire drills and evacuation practices? Let us and everyone else know in the comments below. We’ll post the best tips through our channels later in the week!

Stay tuned this week on our Facebook and Twitter pages for more workplace safety tips!

­--Gentry Lassiter is an intern with the Marketing & Communication Department of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Second National Preparedness Month Giveaway!

It's time for the second National Preparedness Month giveaway! This week we're focusing on pandemic flu preparedness, so leave a comment on this post to tell us how you're preparing for a flu outbreak this year.

While you're thinking about pandemic flu preparedness, check out our Web site and review the pandemic flu safety tips. There are all sorts of simple steps you can take to minimize exposure to viruses and many of them are listed within our safety tips.

The giveaway entry deadline is 4 p.m. this Friday (Sept. 18), so don't wait - comment now! We'll choose the best comment and the winner will receive one of our American Red Cross Preparedness Radios, a $60 value.

Please leave your email address in your comment if you can, or check back Friday at 5 p.m. to see if you've won!

Enjoy a Summer Treat for the Red Cross as the Sunny Days Wind Down!

Supporting the Red Cross never tasted so good!

Join the Berry Chill “Culture Club” and select the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago as your charity and they will donate 3% of each purchase you make back to the Red Cross. Plus, get a 10% bonus each time you add value to your Berry Chill Culture Club Card.

Berry Chill has lcoations at LaSalle and Washington, State and Ontario, Ogilvie's Station, Ravinia, and US Cellular Field, and can be enjoyed by all as it is lactose and gluten free. This all-natural yogurt bar is the first of its kind in the Chicagoland area, offering a daily menu of our Original chilled yogurt (a tangy, frozen treat) and rotating flavors that include Chocolate Amaretto, Pina Colada and Pink Guava. More than a dozen fresh-fruit toppings are also available, such as starfruit, papaya and pineapple; and more than 30 dry toppings including Milk & Honey granola, Girl Scout cookies, mochi and popular cereals. You can customize your yogurt or choose from a list of signature creations. Night revelers can delight in the fact that Berry Chill is open from 8 a.m. until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. From Sunday through Thursday, Berry Chill is open from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.

So, indulge in this tasty treat and feel good about giving back to the Greater Chicago Red Cross!
This is one of the many ways your everyday activities can help the Red Cross. To see how shopping, banking, and even searching the internet can support the chapter, visit our website.

- Carli Franks, Manager of Coporate Partnerships at the American Red Cross of Greater Chciago

National Day of Service and Remembrance

The AmeriCorps of American Red Cross of Greater Chicago participated in the first officially recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11, 2009.

We went to Perspectives- Calumet Middle School in Chicago and organized a supply drive and comfort kit assembly activity.

Comfort kits are bags filled with personal items such as; toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and shampoo. The kits are given to people after they have experienced a disaster.

The middle schoolers collected quite a few items and we were able to put together 50 comfort kits!

The students also learned about how American Red Cross helps people affected by disaster and how they can volunteer to help. If you are interested in volunteering visit the “Volunteer” page on our website.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don’t Want the Flu? Mama Was Right: Wash Your Hands!

New studies underscore something that we’ve been talking about over here since H1N1 debuted: One of the easiest ways to avoid the flu is to wash your hands. As I sat here reading about this in the NYT, I was very aware of how often my dirty digits come close to my face:

The scientists counted the times the students touched their faces, documenting every lip scratch, eye rub and nose pick. On average, the students touched their eyes, noses and lips 47 times during a three-hour period, once every four minutes. Hand-to-face contact has a surprising impact on health. Germs can enter the body through breaks in the skin or through the membranes of the eyes, mouth and nose.

Yikes. So I keep some hand sanitizer on my desk, and I sing the ABCs to myself when I wash my hands to make sure all the germs are goners. What do you do to keep flu-free? You can also read all our flu safety tips at

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day at the Beach

On Sunday I went to the beach in East Rogers Park with my family. It was a beautiful day and we all really enjoyed ourselves.

While at the beach I realized that I was paying closer attention to my surroundings than usual. I took notice of how many people were swimming, how many children were playing near the water and anyone who was jogging or walking on the shore.

I recently got certified in CPR and First Aid and everything that I learned in my class has been going through my head for the past couple of days.

In the class we learned how to look for signs of distress and how to recognize and act in an emergency situation.

Since the class, I have become more aware of what can happen and now know how I can help.

Keeping my eyes and ears open did not stop me from having a great time with my family and made me feel good that I had the knowledge to help someone if they need it! If you are interested in taking a CPR or First Aid class visit the "Take a Class" page on our website.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Making a Difference by Making a Footprint

photo by: Metaxin

It's that time of year again, when summer closes to an end and fun fall activities, like the Chicago Marathon, peek around the corner. As this approaches and we all start to make our fall agendas, the Bank of America introduces the first digital fundraising program featuring 2009 race participants and spectators. If you have been to the Chicago Marathon before, runner or not, you would agree that it is an exhilarating experience. Even from the sidelines you become a part of the race, entirely.

Even if you are just cheering or sharing your inspirational quotes and thoughts, it is just as important as any role in the race. How? Because without the energy supplied by the crowd, the runners are without an encouraging atmosphere to help them push to the last mile. Regardless of your role, anyone is welcome to create their own digital running shoe footprint with a personal image and message of choice at It's quick and easy so anyone can participate. With each submitted tread, Bank of America will donate $1 to one of 22 charities that you may select during the creation of your footprint. You can support the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago with just one click of your mouse! The support from these small donations will go a long way and greatly assist in helping those in need. When you are done, you may even view your completed digital image on the event site’s home page. On the day of the race, the fundraising's final outcome will be announced and Bank of America will award an additional $10,000 to the charity with the most submissions.

Just because you are not running the Chicago Marathon, doesn't mean you can't help change lives. By making a personal footprint you can support runners and the Red Cross, as well as partake in one of the greatest and most inspirational events where people travel from all over, to reach their goals at the finish line. The 26.2 miles takes thousands of steps, but if you just take this one, it will go much farther. By donating your personal footprint, you can show that every step counts for something great.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Roommates – some of the most unprepared folks out there…

I was lucky in college that I lived in places where people did a lot of safety checks for me. The dorm I lived in at Louisiana State University had all their evacuation plans posted on all the doors in case of a fire or other emergency. We also had fire drills pretty frequently. My roommates and I all knew where we’d go if there was an emergency and how to get in touch with our parents or other family members because they had it covered for us.

However, during my sophomore year at the University of Arkansas, I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment. My roommates and I were a flagrant example of the worst way to approach potential disasters. We were lucky if there were batteries near the smoke detector, much less actually in it. We had no idea what kind of response we would have if one of those famous Oklahoma twisters made it near our home in Fayetteville.

We dodged a bullet – there were no tornadoes or fires that year. It wasn’t until I began volunteering with the Northwest Arkansas Red Cross that I began to realize the importance of being prepared. And when I moved to Chicago and began interning full-time with the Greater Chicago Chapter, I truly took on a different approach. My smoke and carbon monoxide detectors’ batteries are checked at least once a month. I know how I’ll get out of my apartment if there’s a fire. I have the beginnings of a disaster kit. And I have renters’ insurance.

There is still more I can do to work toward being prepared for disasters. For example, I need to exchange emergency contact information with my roommates so we can contact each other and our families if we must. Also, I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to get out of the city quickly if I need to (I have no car and the nearest family member is in Glenview).

Being prepared with roommates can be more challenging because roles aren’t as clearly defined as they are in a family. My dad’s always taken on the leadership role for our family preparedness. This makes sense to me, but the leadership role in my home here in Chicago hasn’t been assigned. It is imperative that roommates work together to overcome these communication breakdowns to ensure they’re as prepared as possible. Have a chat with your roommates this week – determine who’s going to take the lead in making sure you’re ready for anything. It’ll take just 30 minutes of your day and you’ll be glad you did it.

Once you’ve decided who should take the lead on this issue, check out the Be Prepared section of our Web site and begin implementing them into your living situation. Good Luck!

--Gentry Lassiter is an intern in the Marketing & Communications Department of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. He lives with his two roommates in a walk-up apartment in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Where will the story take me next?

When I moved to Chicago in May 2001, I was just out of college. I completed my master’s and decided not to continue my studies, which at the time were just an excuse to gain time and figure out my life plan. Fast-forward eight years later, and I can’t believe all the places and things I have done. I worked for two multinational corporations, visited seven countries on three different continents and held positions of power and responsibility. But beyond all the ups and downs, the heartbreaks, the lessons and unforgettable moments, what I have enjoyed more than anything is my volunteer work!

In my eight years in Chicago I have volunteer or otherwise helped raise funds for foundations that do amazing work for our community, from organizations like the ASPCA to organizations that have no real specialization but instead cover the vast geographical area of human needs, such as One Brick and Chicago Cares. I have even trained my dog to volunteer with me. He is an amazing therapy dog and a great companion!

During my plentiful volunteer work in the Chicago community, what I found most inspiring is the number of people who share their love and passion for their community. People who come from different parts of the country, from different religious denominations and political views, yet all share a yearning to make this world a better place.

One of my favorite stories is one of a dear friend who decided to volunteer when she witnessed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She told me that when she was looking at the scenes on TV of the people who were left stranded in the flooded city, she was changed forever. She told herself that she needed to do something to help. She was one of the people who took her car and drove all the way down to New Orleans to help out in any capacity she could. I can still see the fruits of her labor when I walk into her house and I am greeted by her two mutts, both rescued from abandon homes after the Katrina.

These are the stories that make me realize that there is something very powerful that unites us and compels us to act. The more I volunteer my time, the more stories like this I hear, the more I’m convinced that there is more love in the world that we realize.

After many years of spreading myself too thin, of been involved with all sort of volunteer work, from AIDS prevention to animal welfare, I realized that what motivates one to stand up and try to make a difference is when something in your heart is moved and changed forever.

This year is my year of change, and I wanted to find an organization that I could dedicate my time and consolidate my efforts. I thought I would never been able to find it because of my vast interests. But after contemplating intensively about my lifestyle, my personal convictions and the values and mission of different organizations that have been an inspiration for me, I decided that the Red Cross was the place for me.

There are many things I could do to help the world, but being there in the moment of crisis is something I’ve been trained by the University of Life to do, and to do well. I have this cool persona that shows up every time there is an emergency and, like my friend, I was also moved by the natural disasters that have afflicted the world in these past few years. Natural disasters like the Earthquakes in Pakistan and China.

Today I am more committed than ever to the Red Cross. Here I’ve found amazing friends, amazing people with hearts of gold who are there at anytime, any day when they are called to help.

One of the most amazing things that happens when you are surrounded by amazing people like these is how your life is changed. When you listen to their stories, to their passions and their dreams, they all become a part of you in a way, and they all help you write your own story.

So it is not only extending your hands to help others that will make change. The one who is helped and changed most by volunteering is you.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Mo Money, Fewer Problems During a Disaster.

Photo by jtyerse.
Preparedness Month Tip: Have you ever thought about what you'd do if the power went out and you were out of cash? Imagine the blackouts that have plagued the Northeast...when the electric's not working, neither are the ATMs! Even credit cards won't do you any good if you can't swipe. So add some cash to your disaster kit. Even a $20 is a good place to start today! For a full list of items to put in your kit, visit

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Family Found

My dad, Garri Budynsky, in front of the Hungarian Parliament building (Budapest, June 2009)
About two weeks after I accepted my AmeriCorps position at the American Red Cross, my dad told me a story that I had never heard before.

My dad was born in Soviet Union, in the area that is now Ukraine, and lived there until he was 25. He has told me many stories of the hardship that he and my grandmother experienced living in a totalitarian state.

A person disappearing without a trace was a common occurrence in the Soviet Union. That person's family members were left to wonder whether they had been killed, escaped the country or sent to Siberia.

My grandfather left his family in 1957 to go back to his native country, Hungary. Hungary at the time was in a revolution against the Soviet-imposed regime. After the revolution failed, my disenchanted grandfather escaped to the West in hopes of finding freedom.

At this point, my grandmother had no way of contacting him and did not know where he was or if he was still alive.

Around 1968, my grandmother was in Moscow, Russia and walked into a Red Cross office. She told them her story and asked if they could locate my grandfather.

Through the International Tracing Program, Red Cross tracked down my grandfather's second wife in Hungary. She contacted my grandfather who was living in Cologne, West Germany. Since he was considered a traitor to the Soviet Union for escaping to the West, his whereabouts and existence were of no importance to the state. This had made him very hard to track.

Shortly after my grandfather was contacted, my dad received a letter from him. The letter contained a picture of two little girls. At the age of 16, my dad finally learned of the existence of his two half sisters.

Since immigrating to the United States my dad, has kept in contact with both of his sisters. One now lives in England and the other is in Hungary. They have both come to visit my family in the United States, and I feel fortunate to have been able to get to know my aunts and cousins on my dad's side.

This summer my family and I went to Hungary to visit my dad's sister and nephew. The country is beautiful and it was great to see my dad reconnect with his sister who is one of the few living family members he has left.

I am glad to know this story because it is an important part of my family history and it gives me a personal connection to the amazing services that the Red Cross offers to people across the world! To learn more about our International Services at the Greater Chicago Chapter, click here.
-Vicky Budynsky is an AmeriCorps volunteer in our People Resources department. She helps recruit volunteers.

1st Disaster Preparedness Kit

Looking at the calendar I am bewildered by the fact that we are already in September. How can can it be? But September is much more than the prelude to fall; it is National Preparedness month, which brings me to a very important task in my overdue, to-do list: my very first emergency kit.

I set out to put together a kit early this summer but as always I found many ways to occupy my time doing other things. But today that task is going to be checked off of my list. Here are the steps I followed:

  1. Get the info: I went to the website Red Cross Ready to make sure I had all the necessary knowledge required to start my kit.
  2. Did some shopping: Buy a Disaster preparedness kit from the American Red Cross online store
  3. Personalize it: this is the fun part! After getting your pre-made disaster preparedness kit, you need to make it your own. So here are some of my personal touches!

My customization pieces are simple but very important. Beside the obvious water and food for 3-days, flashlight, batteries, radios, important phone numbers and first aid kit, I needed a the following life essential items.

  1. Who let the dogs out?- I own a dog named Tito and if there is an emergency I want to make sure he has what he needs until we can get help-things like a water dish, food, toys and cuddly doggy blankets.
  2. Entertainment- I need a book at all times, so I packed one of the classics, a book that I can read over and over again and I never get tired of it. In this case it was Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” to continue with the theme of the day!
  3. Fashion- I know how important it is for me to look good in order to feel good, so I have added a comfortable, yet stylish change of clothes along with a pair of groovy sneakers. In the end what I have learn from this experience is that an emergency kit is an evolving project, there is no way you can just leave it there and forget about it. The food and water, for one, have to be rotated if you don’t want to be caught eating food that expired in 2008. But it is more than that, your conditions change, the phone numbers of your loved ones change and your taste changes too, so the best thing is to mark in your calendar a date, set out sometime six month down the road, to update your emergency kit. This is perhaps the most important step. Because as I say, what is the use of last season kit in today’s emergency runways?

Barbie Martinez is a Red Cross volunteer. What would you put in your disaster kit? Leave a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

First Preparedness Month Give-away!

Here’s a quick contest to get you started on your kit: Get the first five items (that’s water, food, first aid kit, flashlight and medications) into your kit and take a photo of it all together. The first person to email their photo to me will win an American Red Cross Emergency Radio (it’ll make a great addition to your kit!). Send me your photos (by clicking this link) for your chance to win!

There's a look at what you'll win - it's also listed in our store here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September is National Preparedness Month: Be Red Cross Ready!

It’s been a little while since my last post. I wish I could say it’s because I was getting ready for September, but unfortunately that’s not the case. “What’s so special about September?” you might be asking. Well, I’ll tell you what’s so special about September: It’s National Preparedness Month!

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and evaluate your situation. I’m asking you to take some time this month to evaluate your preparedness situation and take steps toward being ready for a disaster should it occur. These steps don’t have to be anything monumental. They’re actions as simple as making sure you have extra batteries for your flashlight and phone numbers of emergency personnel in your disaster kit. At the end of the month, you’ll be well on your way to being Red Cross Ready (Click that link, it’s a great presentation!).

This will be a lot easier than trying to eat healthier (although that’s good for you too). Just take 10 minutes out of your day to read our postings on our Twitter or Facebook pages (they’ll also be posted right here on our blog for those of you who haven’t yet subscribed to those services), follow the easy step of the day, and bam! you’re done for the day. You’re automatically more prepared than you were the day before – and you didn’t even have to eat any broccoli. Sounds easy, right?

The three steps to being Red Cross Ready are 1) Get a Kit 2) Make a Plan 3) Be Informed. We’ll get you started on these steps throughout the month, and each week will have a theme focusing on a particular aspect of preparedness that might be unique to certain situations. This week we’ll be focusing on family preparedness.

Let’s work together this month to be prepared. Just tune in every day to one of our social media channels and we’ll have something new for you! To keep you interested, we’ll be giving away a few items from our store, and some of them will make great additions to your disaster kit. The first of these giveaways is tomorrow, so keep a close eye on the blog, become our fan Facebook and follow us on Twitter!